Two more thoughts on Jonathan Rowe’s posts about the role of Christianity in the American founding. First, he points out that Madison argued that the First Amendment was intended to separate church and state, and says “our founders often used the term ‘separation of Church & State….’” It’s not just the founders. More than a century before the First Amendment was written, John Milton—a rather unimpeachable Christian—was making the same argument. For instance, in his Second Defence, he said to Oliver Cromwell
if you leave the church to its own government, and relieve yourself and the other public functionaries from a charge so onerous, and so incompatible with your functions; and will no longer suffer two powers, so different as the civil and the ecclesiastical, to commit fornication together, and by their mutual and delusive aids in appearance to strengthen, but in reality to weaken and finally to subvert, each other; if you shall remove all power of persecution out of the church, (but persecution will never cease, so long as men are bribed to preach the gospel by a mercenary salary, which is forcibly extorted rather than gratuitously bestowed, which serves only to poison religion, and to strangle truth,) you will then effectually have cast those money-changers out of the temple, who do not merely truckle with doves, but with the dove itself, with the Spirit of the Most High.
But Separation of Church and State is just a big atheist conspiracy to destroy morality, donchyano.
God is our lord by right of creation, and our only lord, because he only hath created us. If any other were equal to him in wisdom, power, goodness, and beneficence to us, he might challenge the same duty from us. If growing out of ourselves, receiving being from none, depending on no providence, we were offered the protection of a wisdom subject to no error, a goodness that could never fail, and a power that nothing could resist; it were reasonable for us to enter into a covenant, submit ourselves to him, and with all the faculties of our minds to addict ourselves to his service. But what right can from hence accrue to a mortal creature like to one of us, from whom we have received nothing, and who stands in need of help as much as we…? I doubt whether all the lusts that have reigned amongst men since the beginning of the world, have brought more guilt and misery upon them than that preposterous and impudent pretence of imitating what God had instituted.